How to get a real estate license in California (CA) in 6 steps

Getting your real estate license in California can take as little as 7.5 weeks. We’ll show you how to become licensed, taking you through the process step-by-step. We’ll provide all the information and prerequisites you’ll need to get started. You’ll begin by fulfilling the required 135 California real estate course hours.


StockImage-Woman-Agent-vertical

Getting licensed in California

The California Department of Real Estate (DRE) requires all students to complete an approved course of study totaling 135 class hours. This includes two required courses (Real Estate Principles + Real Estate Practice), plus one elective.

The California real estate exam is comprised of 150 multiple-choice questions and takes 3 hours to complete. You’ll need a passing grade of 70% to get licensed.

Class hours
Hours Passing grade
Questions
January-2024-All-Real-Estate-Products-Promo-Banner-The-CE-Shop

How to get a real estate license in California (5 Steps)

The total estimated costs of getting a California real estate license fall between $938 and $1,239. To be eligible for a California real estate license:

  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • You must be a California resident or apply for an out-of-state license
  • You must pass a criminal background check

You can download an application online. You must submit it with a fee of $245.


1. Complete 135 hours of prelicensing education

To be eligible to take the real estate salesperson exam in California, you need to successfully complete three accredited courses totaling 135 hours of study. You’ll need to pass a proctored final exam for each course before moving on to the state exam. Required courses include:

  • California Real Estate Principles (45 hours)
  • California Real Estate Practices (45 hours)
  • One elective course (45 hours)

The cost of prelicensing courses ranges from $99 to $400. Online or in-person real estate courses taken through a California real estate school like The CE Shop tend to be the most budget-friendly. You can save 30% using promo code HW30.

Once you complete all three courses, you’ll have the proof of completion certificates that the DRE requires to schedule your exam.


2. Pass the California real estate licensing exam

You’ll need to complete the application to take the California real estate exam and submit a $60 application fee, as well as proof of fulfillment of your education requirements. Don’t be surprised (or worried) if the review process takes two to six weeks.  

If you’re completing the application for the exam only, you can apply online or complete the Salesperson Examination Application (RE 400A) form. If you’re filling out the combined application to take both the exam and obtain a license, then you can complete the Salesperson Exam/ License Application (RE 435).

After the DRE approves your exam application, you’re ready to schedule your licensing exam. You can use the eLicensing online system to select from available exam dates and sites.


3. Find a broker to hire you

By law, you’re required to work under the supervision of a licensed broker if you plan to practice as a licensed real estate in California. You can get real estate license, but without a sponsoring broker, you’re not permitted to provide any real estate services to clients. Check out our in-depth review of the best big brokerages to work with.


4. Pass a background check & complete biometrics

After you’ve passed the California real estate exam, you’ll have to pass a live scan background check that includes fingerprinting in order to complete your licensing appication in the next step.

This background check will identify any criminal history and help the DRE determine your eligibility to become a real estate agent in California. If you have a criminal history, your best option is to contact the DRE directly and be forthcoming about your history.

See Fingerprint Requirements for additional details.


5. Complete your state licensing application

You’ve passed your real estate licensing exam and chosen a sponsoring brokerage. What’s next?

If you didn’t file a License Combo Application, then you will be sent a Salesperson License Application (RE 202). You’re ready to complete it and submit it to the DRE for approval. This form must be completed and returned along with the appropriate fee within one year of passing the California exam.

Just download your license application from the DRE’s eLicensing online system. When you submit the completed application, you’ll also be expected to include your Live Scan fingerprinting. A license cannot be issued until DRE receives your biometric information.

The DRE will notify you when your application has been approved and your official license certificate is available online. To print your certificate, you’ll log onto your free eLicensing account and choose the option to print your license certificate from the menu. 

Your last step? Frame your certificate and display it proudly! 



FAQs: How to get a real estate license in California

Now that you’ve learned how to get a real estate license in California, you’re ready to launch your real estate career. Still trying to decide if real estate is right for you? Need more details about the process? We answer many common questions for prospective and new real estate agents in California.

  • How much money does a California real estate agent earn?

    $$ According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary of a California real estate agent is $90,804  per year as of September 15, 2023. This is the equivalent of $44 per hour, $1,746 per week, or $7,567 per month. Compared to the national average of $86,356, an agent in California makes $4,448 more per year.

    While ZipRecruiter is seeing salaries as high as $149,377 and as low as $29,045, the majority of real estate agent salaries currently range between $67,400 and $103,700, with top earners making $129,667 annually in California.

    ZipRecruiter scanned a database of millions of active jobs published locally across the country to determine that California is ranked number 5 out of 50 states nationwide for real estate agent salaries. ZipRecruiter also reports that the top 5 cities/areas where the typical salary for a real estate agent is above average in California are:

    • #5 San Leandro, $101,440 annual salary
    • #4 Bolinas, $105,673 annual salary
    • #3 Danville, $107,008 annual salary
    • #2 Richmond, $108, 297 annual salary
    • #1 San Mateo County, $124,257 annual salary
  • How much does it cost to get a real estate license in California?

    As with any pursuit of education that will enhance your career, there are costs involved in getting your license. When it comes to getting a real estate license in California, here’s what you need to budget for:

    • Fingerprint processing fee paid to the Live Scan fingerprint service provider = $49
    • Pre-licensing exam coursework = $99 to $400
    • Salesperson examination only, application fee = $60
    • Original license fee = $245
    • License renewal fee after 4 years = $245
    • Other miscellaneous fees = about $240

    Estimated total =  Between $938 and $1,239

  • How long does it take to get a real estate license in California? 

    The more time you spend studying for the real estate license exam, the greater your chance of scoring at least 70% the first time around (which is what you’ll need to be eligible for your license).

    When it comes to the time commitment for becoming a licensed salesperson, at the very least you’ll have to invest 135 hours into taking three real estate courses approved by the California Department of Real Estate. Do the math, and that’s 2.5 hours of classes every day for 54 days in a row if you’re feeling ambitious.

  • How hard is it to pass the California real estate exam? 

    From FY 2022 to 2023, according to the California Department of Real Estate, there were 56,741 salesperson exams administered. Of those, 20,671 people passed the real estate exam and became licensed salespeople in California.

    Based on last year’s statistics, that’s about a 36% pass rate for exam takers. You’ll need to get a grade of at least 70% to pass the exam

  • What steps do I take to complete the California real estate license application?

    Before you gather the required salesperson documents, you should:

      • Read appropriate license instructions carefully (RE 435A or RE 436A).

      • List your legal name on the application.

      • Include the items listed below in your packet (check off each item as you assemble your packet).

      • Mail completed application package and fee.

    Required documents for the salesperson applicant:

    * Make 2 photocopies of the copy provided. After fingerprints are completed, the Live Scan operator will keep the original. You should return the second copy to the California DRE and keep the third copy for your records.

    Check out the DRE’s license application checklist for further details.

  • What should I bring to the California real estate licensing exam room?

    When the day comes for you to take your real estate licensing exam, the only thing you’ll need to be admitted is a valid form of photo identification. The following are the only forms of photo identification accepted:

    • Current state-issued driver’s license or DMV identification card
    • U.S. passport or passport issued by a foreign government
    • U.S. military identification card
  • What can't I bring to the California real estate licensing exam?

    Here are a few of the items that you cannot bring into the exam room:

    • Backpack, briefcase, purse and /or wallet (don’t forget to remove your photo ID!)
    • Gum, food, and drinks
    • Keys, watch
    • Study materials, pens
    • Smart device, laptop, tablet
    • Personal calculator, cell phone

    Don’t worry, basic calculators are provided for you to use during the exam. The possession of a cell phone, however, is strictly prohibited, even if you aren’t using it or you’re on break. There will either be individual lockers, a “personal belongings” table, or both available for storing your cell phone, calculator, and other prohibited items during the exam.

  • Can I apply for a California real estate license online?

    Once you have passed the real estate licensing exam, you can apply for a real estate salesperson license online by using the Online Exam/License Application System (OELA). You will need to create an eLicensing account in order to use OELA. Then you can complete and submit the license application (unless you have previously completed the Combined Examination and License application) and pay the applicable fee.

    Based on several recent surveys, the average real estate agent commission is between 5% and 5.5% in California, depending on the location within the state. This average reflects the total for both the listing agent and the buyer’s agent, and is typically split between the two 50/50.

  • What is the average value of California homes?

    According to Zillow, the average value of a home in California is $746,055, and the average home stays on the market for 16 days (as of this writing).

  • What is the California real estate license renewal process?

    Renewing your license every four years is as simple as:

    • Completing continuing education courses
    • Entering information into the DRE’s e-licensing system
    • Paying a renewal fee

    Be aware of your license’s expiration date and take the proper steps to renew your license well before that date. To remind you, the DRE does send a letter to your mailing address around 60 days before the expiration date.

    Learn more about California real estate license renewal.

  • What are the continuing education requirements for a California salesperson renewing for the first time?

    Before you renew your salesperson license for the first time, the DRE states that you’ll have to complete 45-clock hours of DRE-approved continuing education (CE). This must include:

    • Four different courses (3 hours each) in ethics, agency, risk management, and trust fund handling
    • One course (3 hours) in fair housing with an interactive participatory component. That means during the course, you will role-play as both a consumer and a real estate professional
    • One course (2 hours) in implicit bias training
    • Consumer protection courses (a minimum of 18 hours)
    • One or more courses in consumer service or consumer protection to round out the remaining 45-clock hours.

    Learn more about DRE’s continuing education requirements.

  • Where and when can I take continuing education classes?

    When it comes to your continuing education courses, there are several different California real estate schools and real estate education course providers to choose from. Schools and providers tend to offer various packages at different price points, allowing you to choose from online or printed continuing education materials, online courses, and online exams for CE credits.

    For the most part, these California real estate schools let you choose between studying online or having books sent to your office or home. This gives you the flexibility to study where and when it’s convenient for you.

  • How can I renew my license?

    You may renew your real estate license by completing and submitting the following at least 90 days before the license’s expiration date:

  • Can I renew my license online? 

    If you have an eLicensing account, you can certainly renew your salesperson license online using DRE’s eLicensing online system. The eLicensing system is an expedited, easy, and secure way to renew your license any day of the week, at a time that works best for you.

    To renew your real estate license online:

    • You must be a California resident who does not hold a restricted license, or
    • You must be an out-of-state resident who already has a Consent to Service of Process form on file with the DRE.
    • You must be ready to provide all the information detailed in the Salesperson Renewal Application: RE 209.
    • All your continuing education requirements must be met before you use eLicensing for your renewal.

    Ready to renew online? Once you log on, eLicensing will prompt you to enter all the information necessary for license renewal, including the course number and completion date of continuing education courses if those are required.

    No matter what renewal method you choose, your application must be postmarked or your eLicensing transaction completed before midnight of your license expiration date to continue operating under your existing license. If for some reason you don’t renew your license before the expiration date, keep in mind that you cannot practice real estate in California until your license has been renewed.

  • Does California have real estate license reciprocity with any other state?

    While you don’t have to be a state resident to practice real estate in California (residency is not a requirement to become licensed) there are out-of-state requirements for non-residents. California has no reciprocity with any other state to waive any of the requirements for those who want to obtain a license. Requirements include qualifying for the appropriate written examination in California.

    If you’re an out-of-state resident applying for the California real estate salesperson examination, be ready to provide proof of completing the “statutory courses in out-of-state institutions.” And by proof, we mean transcripts from an institution accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges or a comparable regional accrediting entity. The DRE will want to see that each course you took is worth 3 semester-units credit or 4 quarter-units credit.

The full picture: How to get a real estate license in California

Whether it’s info on how to get a real estate license in California or the latest industry news, we’re here to guide you through every phase of your real estate career and help you make informed, advised decsions. We provide the most up-to-date information and insights to help you succeed.

Helpful links and article sources

.grid-container.faq { margin: 35px 0px 35px !important; padding: 0px !important; } .indent30 { padding-left: 30px; } ul.checkmark-icon { padding-left: 30px; } ul.checkmark-icon li { list-style: none; background-image: url(https://www.housingwire.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/icon_checkmark_black.png); background-repeat: no-repeat; background-size: 1.1em 1.1em; -webkit-padding-start: 30px; padding-inline-start: 30px; background-position-y: 2px; padding-bottom: 10px; } .bookmark-list .wp-block-group__inner-container ol { margin-top: 15px; } .bookmark-list ol>li::marker { content: url(“https://www.housingwire.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/icon-bookmark-16×16-1.png”) counter(list-item) “. “; } .bookmark-list .wp-block-group__inner-container ol li { padding-bottom: 10px; } ul.dollarsign { padding-left: 30px; } ul.dollarsign li { list-style: none; background-image: url(https://www.housingwire.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/icon_dollar_sign.png); background-repeat: no-repeat; background-size: 1.1em 1.1em; -webkit-padding-start: 30px; padding-inline-start: 30px; background-position-y: 1px; } .disclaimer { padding: 5px 5px !important; } .link-text a { color: #313A3D !important; } /* —For the hover color— */ .link-text-hover a:hover { color: #FF1D25 !important; } /* ———- CTA BOX BLUE BORDERED ———- */ .cta-box-blue-bordered { background-color: #fff !important; margin: 45px 0; border: 2px solid #5DB7DE; } ul.no-bullets li{ list-style: none; } ul.checkmark-icon, ul.xmark-icon, ul.dollarsign { padding-left: 30px; } ul.checkmark-icon li { list-style: none; background-image: url(https://www.housingwire.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/icon_checkmark_black.png); background-repeat: no-repeat; background-size: 1.1em 1.1em; -webkit-padding-start: 30px; padding-inline-start: 30px; background-position-y: 2px; padding-bottom: 10px; } ul.xmark-icon li { list-style: none; background-image: url(https://www.housingwire.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/icon_xmark_black.png); background-repeat: no-repeat; background-size: 1.1em 1.1em; -webkit-padding-start: 30px; padding-inline-start: 30px; background-position-y: 2px; padding-bottom: 10px; } ul.dollarsign li { list-style: none; background-image: url(https://www.housingwire.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/icon_dollar_sign.png); background-repeat: no-repeat; background-size: 1.1em 1.1em; -webkit-padding-start: 30px; padding-inline-start: 30px; background-position-y: 1px; } ol.bookmark-list { margin-top: 15px; } ol.bookmark-list>li::marker { content: url(https://www.housingwire.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/icon-bookmark-16×16-1.png) counter(list-item) “. “; } ol.bookmark-list li { padding-bottom: 10px; } .grid-container.faq { margin: 35px 0px 35px !important; padding: 0px !important; } .disclaimer { padding: 5px 5px !important; } .link-text a { color: #313A3D !important; } /* —For the hover color— */ .link-text-hover a:hover { color: #FF1D25 !important; }